This is the tenth installment of the account of a journey into and out of scientology — written by one of our long-term readers. I hope you enjoy her insights, humor and style.
Lili also provided a glossary of terms.
Through the Bubble – Lili’s Adventures in Scientologyland
This is my quirky recollection of events. Others may remember things differently. Lingo is italicized on the first mention, capitalized after that. I’ve compressed complexities in the cult to simplify your reading pleasure.
The Joy of Joining the Scientology Business Community
I finally finished the Scientology executive Course. You know, my Scientology MBA. The Registrar, who had zero respect for my door-to-door sales career, encouraged me to go pro with my little housecleaning gig. She had shit to sell, and until I paid off my sketchy loan, she was getting no joy from me.
Back when I finished the Personal Integrity Course, I said goodbye to Mom paying my rent. The Registrar suggested that letting my mom pay my rent was a horrible transgression against her. And I could never be successful until I quit leaning on her. The Registrar told me that taking this step was a Big Win. I had acted like a true Scientologist. I felt so adult and Responsible. And stressed.
In response to the Registrar’s pie in the sky urges to collect my big paycheck by starting my own business, I put ads in the paper for house cleaning and started hiring helpers. The fact that I’d become The Man, sailed by my awareness, unremarked upon. At least The Man had a clue. It turned out I had no idea how to run a business.
Thanks, Scientology, for the encouragement to decide-I-could-do-it, with nothing more than the Power of Postulates. (See the glossary if you care to learn more about this wishful-thinking Scientology philosophy.) And thanks too for over-selling your stupid-ass Executive Course.
If I succeeded in my business, yay, L Ron Hubbard’s teachings made that Win happen. If I crashed and burned, it was my Responsibility, my fault, my bad. Let’s tick off a couple ways Scientology would explain my future failure. Hmm, I must have passed a Misunderstood Word on my Course. Misunderstood Words were a huge deal in Scientology. If you were a Good Scientologist and followed L Ron Hubbard’s many advices to the letter, (when you could figure them out,) you kept dictionaries by your bed, in your car, and by the toilet. Because God forbid, you should pass a word you didn’t know all twenty-seven definitions of. Including idioms, expressions, and source etymology. And just for good measure, you might want to be familiar with the archaic usages because L Ron Hubbard sometimes used words from his past lives. If you read past a word you didn’t fully understand, the pitch was that your life could Go Off the Rails, a favorite Hubbard phrase meaning disaster.
Another reason I might fail was because of a connection to a Suppressive Person. Scientology hunted Suppressive Persons in your life like a boar hunts truffles. Gouged-earth madness. Every time you got sick, stubbed your toe, or made a mistake, like failing your business, the hunt was on for the elusive Suppressive Person behind your stupid decisions.
As my stint in the cult wore on, finding that Suppressive Person who caused my head cold or made me decide to take that day off, got harder. My ever-shrinking circle of non-Scientological friends was sadly the source of the Suppressive Persons list. That’s because you couldn’t name that Scientologist that suggested you should – insert terrible idea here – because that would directly attack Scientology. Suddenly, you would have your Head on a Pike. (Another favorite L Ron Hubbard phrase, for being front and center for the blame and punishment of Ethics.)
Unfortunately, there existed piles of L Ron Hubbard-written truth, cough, to protect your fellow Scientologists from fault. You couldn’t call out a staff member or any other Scientologist as the source of a problem, creator of a disaster, or scourge of the universe. This translated to any Registrar-caused bankruptcy being blamed on the parishioner, who “didn’t take Responsibility” for their actions. Therefore, any Registrar could coax me into the nearest debt pit, collect a commission, and get a pat on the back.
In the Ideal Scene Scientology way of doing business, I would train a new employee on how to clean, and they’d do a good job. Or I could be your typical nineteen-year-old new business owner who had no idea how to interview, hire, or train staff. The new staffer could screw something up or quit and go into business for themselves and compete with me. But of course, that would be my fault. Scientology’s advice would be to write up my transgressions and do some amends. Yeah, no thanks.
Josh helped us keep the tilting roller-coaster train on the track with his scary-good organizational skills. On top of our normal financial obligations, I also had loan payments on my stupid, mammoth, sketchy loan. If you have to make the money, you figure it out. We figured it out.
The Registrar would often flatter me about all the Wins I was having and how I was this big success. She meant that I was making more money than when I started the Communication Course. She was fer sure overlooking my ridiculous debt-to-income ratio. And we were both overlooking that most nineteen-year-olds were, A: at college. B: test-driving a significant number of potential sexual partners. Or C: nannying to pay for their upcoming trip to Europe. I, however, was scrubbing toilets, teaching others to scrub toilets, and chasing down payments for scrubbing toilets. Ah, the hydrochloric-acid smell of success.
The Conditions of Existence, One of My Favorite Teachings inside the Bubble
Little Miss New Business Owner left the Registrar’s office in a daze. Somehow, I’d just spent all the extra money I’d made on yet another Scientology course. Like a two-by-four upside the head, my post-Registrar-appointment brain was numb. I wondered how I was Miss Empty-Pockets again. I’d shared my shy little Win with the Registrar because she love-bombed the shit out of me anytime I shared my financial good news with her. It had somehow turned into this tremendous Scientological reason for me to buy that next course.
I’d been so happy half an hour ago, excited even. No one else in my life gave two shits about the smart crap I did to earn more money. However, the Registrar had gone all hand-waving enthusiastic about my readiness to “take the next step.” I wasn’t interested in taking the next step. I hadn’t finished slogging through my current tedious step. Then she ambushed me with L Ron Hubbard logic. Cough.
Whenever I stepped into the Course Room, I was on the hunt for that nugget of L Ron Hubbard wisdom that I could apply to improve myself or my business. I waded through a porta-potty-load of splatter-word, pompous pronouncements, and contradictory declarations I could have lived without. I found it irritating when other students would declare they’d found “this amazing knowledge” in the parched pages I’d just unsuccessfully sifted through. Lucky for me (or maybe not,) I’d find helpful things here and there to keep me, butt in chair. For instance, back at the beginning of my Scientology career, I read L Ron Hubbard’s Conditions of Existence. This Conditions of Existence discovery by L Ron Hubbard included step-by-step formulas to follow. To what else, improve conditions.
There were twelve Conditions of Existence Formulas in total. They seemed logical, helpful, and were flogged like the Second Coming of Christ. The staff used the Conditions weekly, so I did too. That meant I had to track my sales Statistic. The extra fussy work keeping track of my every dollar sold, made me feel like a good little Scientologist. The apparency that the Conditions helped me be more successful, was this invisible fishing line wrapped around me, anchoring me underwater to Scientology.
When I started using the Conditions, my Fuller Brush door-to-door sales were going along fine. But it turned out that even if all was well and you didn’t need help, there was a Condition Formula to do. And steps to take. If my Fuller Brush sales increased by twenty-five dollars for that week, the Condition I applied was called Normal Operation. The Normal Operation steps included noting any initiative I took beyond the everyday actions. L Ron Hubbard said that the new initiative, or change I introduced, could have contributed to my improved sales Statistic. Maybe I gave out two free gifts instead of one. The Condition steps would have me repeat that Successful Action. Theoretically, if I repeated that action, my sales Statistic would rise again.
I believed in the Condition Formula steps like I believed in magic. I’d strategize with them to improve my Stats and got a bit frowny-faced if my Stats dipped. No big surprise that I started working more hours in my cheat to goose up my flagging Stats. That right there is one of the many ways Scientology turns its adherents into workaholics.
The big smart move I shared with the Registrar was this; I’d had an realization about saving money in my house cleaning business, which turned into a bonanza. We, the house cleaning service, brought our own cleaning products to each job. Unfortunately, products got left behind, wasted, or ended up under the sink in staff members’ apartments. I bought excellent and expensive chemical-smelling products from the janitorial supply house. We were bleeding in the expense department.
Another reason to make a change? Some of my staff were elderly. They shouldn’t be asked to carry buckets of heavy cleaning products up twenty-five stone steps into the stunning view home they were assigned to beautify.
I created an official-looking checklist of products and equipment needed to clean the average home. The new clients accepted this latest document. It looked great next to my official form listing the various cleaning tasks we agreed to perform in their kitchens, bathrooms, and other rooms.
We’d started three new jobs that week. Each of the new clients had signed up for the recommended cleaning products. These orders were, of course, from the excellent Fuller Brush home care catalog. My cleaning staff did the deliveries, and I was well pleased.
The L Ron Hubbard wisdom bomb the Registrar exploded my budget with was called the Condition of Affluence. It’s just above the Condition of Normal Operation. I’d never reached a higher Condition than Normal Operation. Back up a step there, cowgirl. Was I in a Condition of Affluence? But I had stupid amounts of debt. It turns out in Scientology; it doesn’t matter how much you’ve borrowed. If your income Stat pokes up above a certain angle, you’re in the Condition of Affluence. Let the bells ring, let the love-bombing commence. Ooh, you’re so Up-Stat, (word-vention meaning your Statistics are up). So sexy. So Cause. So Responsible, Scientology buzz words ad nauseam.
One of the Affluence formula steps was to use your excess income to pay bills. I still had my mammoth sketchy loan, but the Registrar blew past that step and focused on the last one that said, “invest the remainder in Service Facilities.” How is there a remainder if I still have bills?
While we’re at the whole explaining shit phase here, what’s a Service Facility anyway? Yeah, I didn’t get that at all. It sounded like a portable toilet or something. The Registrar explained that it meant making it more possible to deliver services. You could sharpen your tools, buy backup products that you sell, or learn better techniques that would contribute to your business running smoothly. Then she pulled out the memorized L Ron Hubbard quotes about the value of Scientology training. So bottom line, she didn’t care if my rattling, smoke-farting car needed a tune-up. Investing in Service Facilities in the Registrar’s eyes translated to buying a Scientology Course or some of that Auditing to make me more capable. Able to deliver more of whatever my gig was. And make more money.
I shambled down the hall after the Registrar corralled me into buying that next course. I stared at the traffic pattern in the carpet as I headed toward the stairs—no mystery what I’d be doing outside of work hours for the next couple of months. Like the stab of an oncoming car’s high beams, the Registrar’s radiant face was my after-image. I reached for an excitement or just a tiny smile. I felt lost. I wondered if my jittery stomach upset or the urge to hit something was an example of my Reactive Mind fighting back against the purpose to improve myself. The Registrar had used an LRH quote to that effect when I said no. For like the fourth time. But by time number five, my resolve liquified, like my backbone.
I didn’t want to do that next course. I wanted to rewind time and skip telling the Registrar my Big Win. I wondered what was wrong with me.